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1 rating: 3.0
The primary operator of trains within Italy
1 review about Trenitalia

Coming to terms with Trenitalia

  • Jun 20, 2009
  • by

As an Italian who speaks no Italian,  I was terrified about Trenitalia.  Here are some tips based on my experience:

  • Buying a ticket (singular "biglietto," plural "biglietti") without a reservation just means you've paid for a trip between two places during a specified time period (versus a specific date and time). Reservations are not even available on some of the regional trains travelling between smaller cities (e.g., Interregionale, Regionale).
  • The numbers "1" and "2" painted on the sides of the car ("carrozza") of the train ("treno") typically refer to first and second class and not the car number. Sometimes the car numbers are posted in the windows of the cars, but not always. If you don't have a reservation, find the appropriate class (first or second) car and take any open seat. If you're not sure if a seat is free, just ask: "E libero?" or "Occupato?"
  • Buying a ticket with a reservation (required on some trains such as Eurostar City and InterCity Plus) guarantees you a specific seat on a specific train on a specific day and time. Your ticket will show the car and seat number ("posto"). It may be better just to get on any car and proceed through the cars to your assigned seat once the train is moving rather than running down the platform hoping to find the right car to get on. It is not uncommon to find someone sitting in your assigned seat. Simply say "Scuzi," and show them your reservation (just be sure you have located the correct seat!)
  • Remember to validate your ticket in the little yellow boxes in the station – sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, but it's important to find one that does. If you are asked for your ticket by the conductor ("capotreno") and it is not validated, he will not be happy and you will have to pay a fine.
  • The large display boards on the platforms by the tracks (plural "binari") with arrivals ("arrivi") on white posters and departures ("partenze") on yellow posters are very helpful to determine which track (singular "binario") your train is leaving from. You do need to remember how to read times using the 24:00 system (e.g. 17:00 means 5 pm). Sometimes there also are monitors listing upcoming arrivals and departures and sometimes there are digital screens by the tracks telling you which train is coming next. However these are not always functional.
  • Remember that the train is identified not necessarily by where you are going but by the last city on train's route. For example, we took the train from Parma to Riccione but the city indicated on the train was Ancona since that was the last stop. The posted train schedules list each stop along the way, and it is not a bad idea to note the station just before your stop so you can be ready to get off.
  • The single most important thing however is to note the track ("binario") from which your train will depart. Changes can sometimes occur at the last moment which can be very confusing.
  • Except for very large stations (e.g. Milano Centrale, Firenze SMN, etc) you will need to use the "sotto passagio" ("subway" or underground walkway) to go under the tracks and get to the track you want for your next train. Depending on the size of the city, there can be just a few tracks or many.
  • You can try making "ticketless" reservations using the Trenitalia website, but this doesn't always work. If you're successful, you can print out your reservation with the details and the "capotreno" will check your reservation on a hand-held device. These printed out reservations do not need to be validated in the little yellow boxes.

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March 08, 2010
Hi we are planning on travelling by train to Italy in August from london. Hoping to take the eurostar to Paris and then the stendhal sleeper overnight to Milan (we are really going to Lake Como). Have you any experience of the overnight trains?
March 08, 2010
Sorry, no, my experience was just on city-to-city day trips. Hope you enjoy your visit - Italy's a beautiful country!
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